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Street/Strip 1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS Has Been Stuck in the Mud for 40 Years

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2/6/2019 Scotty Lachenauer
a blue car parked in a parking lot: 004-Fardone-Camaro-side-threequarter.JPG

Hot rod hunter John Fardone is no stranger to these pages. The Bucks County, Pennsylvania, native was part of the team we featured a few years back for pulling a pair of wing cars out of a collector's basement ("Birds in the Basement," Aug. 2016; Since then, John has been hitting the pavement with a vengeance, scoring rare and collectible rides that have been entombed in garages, shoved into long-term storage, or relocated to the backyards of America.

John's the first to admit he doesn't do it alone. "I have a group of friends who are constantly chasing cars for me. They turn me on to them, and then it's up to me to make a deal and bring them home." The list of wild muscle rides he has obtained over the years is extensive. He is just one of those guys who not only love the chase but also thrive on bringing lost rides back to the streets where they belong.

A Tip Recently John got a tip from one of his "scouts" about a Camaro sitting out in the elements. His friend spotted what appeared to be the outline of a first-gen Camaro under a cover in the dirt alongside a shed. Naturally, his friend knocked on the owner's door and inquired about the F-body. The owner said it was a true big-block RS/SS car that he bought in 1972. "My buddy said that it definitely was worth investigating, so I made the time to go check it out. It wasn't far from my home."

a blue car parked in front of a cake: 014-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-front-see-thru-1.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 014-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-front-see-thru-1.jpg

When John got to the car, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. "It had sat so long, the car had sunk up to the traction bars." But interestingly enough, for an East Coast car that had lived in this harsh environment, it wasn't that bad overall. "I was shocked how solid the car was for sitting in dirt all those years," he says.

By now John was salivating all over the Camaro's original Le Mans blue paint. He then took a quick peek inside. In contrast to the outside, the interior was in total shambles, as the weather, local animals and general debris had made a massive depository of the cockpit. "It was mess inside, but I always look at the bright side," says John. And that bright side was the fact that this car was just loaded with some of the best speed parts a racer could purchase back in the 1970s.

Though he was interested in this brazen Bowtie, John could not pull off a deal that day. Over the next two weeks the twosome negotiated a price. We can imagine it wasn't easy for someone to part with a car that had been there in view for the last 40 years, but in the end, they negotiated a deal. With the OK, John immediately made tracks to the owner's house to claim his prize. It was a challenge to get it out of the mud, but this is nothing out of the ordinary for John. "I put some boards down, jacked it up out of the dirt, put wheels on it, and pulled it onto the flatbed," he says.

a person in a blue car on a dirt road: 002-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-front-three-quarter-as-found-1.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 002-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-front-three-quarter-as-found-1.jpg

Fast Life The Camaro had lived a fast life, on the road less than a decade before being put up for good. The last title holder, the car's second owner, bought it in 1972 and immediately turned the L78 Camaro into a street/strip terror. He raced the 375hp car around the streets of Philadelphia until the original mill blew, then built up a wild LT-1 and started bringing the Camaro to the track.

He installed tow tabs up front, along with a set of tow hubs so he could flat-tow the Camaro to local quarter-mile haunts. There, the now small-blockmotivated ride would run high 10s, a pretty sweet number back then for a 350-pushed Camaro. The owner continued to thrash the car for several years until he decided he'd had enough. Though it was still running well, he parked it on the side of the house in the dirt and put a tarp over it for the foreseeable future.

John was amazed by the grocery list of wild speed parts that were installed on this Camaro. From engine upgrades to suspension and running gear, this 1970s throwback was a virtual time capsule of racing parts used four decades ago. But there were more surprises to come.

After inspecting the engine, he thought maybe he could get it to run. He pulled off the carb and realized that not only was it full of mud, but the intake had also been subjected to the same unwanted earthly batter. John cleaned the induction system, rebuilt the carb, and made sure the fuel system was clean before going further. When he checked the tank, he found it full of Sunoco Purple, which had stayed fresh since the 1970s! That says a lot for the fuel offered back in the day.

a blue car parked in front of a building: 015-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-side-1.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 015-fardone-1968-chevrolet-camaro-side-1.jpg

He then added some oil to the cylinders as a precaution. Once he had spark, he tried to turn it over. Amazingly, with just a little coaxing, the LT-1 not only fired up, but ran damn near perfect. "It ran so well, I felt I didn't have to go through a rebuild of the mill," says John. From there he went on to inspect the suspension and clean up the brakes, which all came to life with just some fine tuning.

The car was road-ready in a few months. Then John started cleaning up the body as best he could. He removed some haphazardly sprayed primer from the Camaro's flanks and then looked for a hood for the car. The Camaro had come with a flat hood with a big Moroso hoodscoop that was in poor condition. John had a Le Mans blue cowl hood in his stash that, coincidentally, worked perfectly with the car. Not only did it fit, it had patina to match. He then shod the Camaro with a set of used Cragar SS wheels to give it that mid-'70s street vibe he was after.

John now has his street survivor Camaro RS/SS on the road where it belongs. It's no pretty face, with a full course of battle scars and age lines along its flanks, not to mention a rusty crust on the underside where it sat in dirt over the years. But it's just fine with John. What he has is one incredible look into the past, a time when these muscle cars ruled the streets Monday through Friday, and took to the track on the weekends to make their mark out on the 1320s of the nation.

At a Glance 1968 Camaro RS/SS

Owned by: John Fardone

Restored by: Unrestored

Engine: 350ci LT-1 V-8

Transmission: Muncie M22 4-speed manual

Rearend: Chevrolet 12-bolt with 5.57 gears

Interior: Black vinyl buckets

Wheels: 15x3.5 front, 15x8 rear Cragar SS

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